Houses located in Yazd’s historic centre are being destroyed.
Several historic neighbourhoods in Yazd, a city in central Iran, are threatened with destruction to make way for the extension of a mausoleum. Some of the ancient houses are even slated to be replaced by a car park. According to our Observer, this controversial construction project is motivated more by profit than religion.
Construction has already begun for this large project, which consists of extending the area of the Imamzadeh of Jafar. The Imamzadeh are the descendants of Shiite imams, and the term also refers, by extension, to their mausoleums. Four hectares of the historic neighbourhoods will be converted into a public garden, a square, a cemetery, and a parking lot.
When the construction plans were made public a year ago, at least 200 architecture students sent a petition to the Yazd provincial governor to express their concern about the demolition the plan would entail. In mid-June, both students and local residents took part in a protest in front of the offices of the Yazd Provincial Cultural Heritage Organization, which was supposed to approve the project even though construction had already begun. The urban planning company in charge of the project has allegedly demanded that certain homeowners sell them their property.
According to UNESCO, Yazd is one of the world’s oldest cities and is home to many caravanserai - ancient shelters for travellers - and other historical monuments. Some of the buildings date back to the time of the Qajar dynasty, which ruled Iran from 1786 to 1925.
The project is also opposed on religious grounds because this particular Imamzadeh, as his mausoleum’s official website indicates, is the grandson of another Imamzedah. In short, Jafar may have no direct link to the Shiite imams, and by extention with the prophet’s family, unlike the other well-known Imamzadeh in Iran.
Last week, students and residents protested against the destruction of part of the city’s historic centre at the headquarters of Yazd's Provincial Cultural Heritage Organisation.